Monday, August 27, 2012

Guest Post: Me: The Problem With Sequels

Today's guest post is by me!  Wait, that doesn't make sense.  Anyway, I'm bored and feel the urge to whine and since no one took up today's space (your loss, authors) I might as well use up this dead air.

OK, so I've been having some problems with the sequel to A Hero's Journey.  The problem is not actually writing a sequel.  I've actually written two drafts of the sequel already.  The problem is writing a sequel that doesn't suck.  Added to the problem is that I've already written a bunch of other sequels (six others total) and I did a little setup at the end of the first book, so I'm painted into a sort of corner.

The first version of the sequel I wrote in August/September of 2009.  I remember it exactly because it was the first story I wrote on my spiffy new Toshiba netbook, which is no longer new but still spiffy.  (I mean that 9 hour or so battery life was a godsend because no longer had to search Starbuckses and Panera Breads for outlets.)  Anyway, that first draft involved the mysterious Marie Marsh and even more mysterious Watchmaker going back in time to save people they care about, which screws up the timeline.  Worse yet is that the Watchmaker especially can't save the person he cares about so he keeps going back to try and fix things only to make things worse until Emma (with a lot of help from Marie) stops him and changes things back in sort of Back to the Future II style by going back to when Marie and the Watchmaker first went back in time and stopping them.

Anyway, I was never happy with how that turned out.  Then when A Hero's Journey got picked up by a publisher I decided I ought to rewrite the sequel.  I finished the first draft of that second draft a couple of months ago.  My beta reader got back to me with some concerns, mostly that Emma doesn't do a lot and reiterating my concern that the Watchmaker wasn't much of a villain.

So now it's back to formula here.  Then last Thursday as I was sitting in traffic it occurred to me that part of my problem is I was limiting myself too much by trying to just rework the first draft.  I realized that at the end of A Hero's Journey we know almost nothing about the Watchmaker (except his code name) and we don't know much about Marie Marsh either.  So I had a lot more room to maneuver than I was giving myself.

Anyway, this weekend I got to thinking of a third version.  This one takes parts from the first two drafts and also fuses it with the very first Emma Earl story, Heart of a Hero, which you can read in its entirety in the Special Features tab along with a bunch of other stuff you probably never thought to look at.

So here's a shorter version of the notes I wrote this weekend that ended up being 9 pages.  The fundamental difference is in the character of the Watchmaker.  In the first two versions he was this tragic character who wants to help Marie go back in time to save his wife, who fell from a building while trying to stop someone from jumping.  Anyway, this version gives him a much more villainous agenda.  Here we go!

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Not a real cover!
It's 18 months after A Hero's Journey and not a lot has changed.  Emma is still the Scarlet Knight and fighting evil.  Then she finds out from Detective Donovan that they may finally know who killed Emma's parents 13 years earlier, but those people are on the run from the cops and mob boss Don Vendetta.  (At this point if you don't know who anyone is, maybe go read the Character Bios.)

Meanwhile unbeknownst to Emma (but knownst to us) Marie is working with the Watchmaker to develop enough power in her funky pale blue eye so she can go back in time and save a little girl named Veronica Windham.  So far while Marie can manifest herself back in time as pretty much a ghost she can't make any physical contact.  She knows that eventually Veronica will die from a fever that would be easily curable in the 21st Century.

The Watchmaker is basically serving as her evil Yoda, or perhaps Darth Sidious, to instruct her on how to use her eye's true power.  They finally get to the point where Marie can manifest herself physically for a few seconds.  To strengthen the connection they need to rely on a little black magic.

While Emma is wasting a lot of time on revenge, Marie and the Watchmaker finally go back in time to 1876 and Marie is able to take Veronica with her back to the present.  The Watchmaker meanwhile goes to a nearby church and takes an old book that has some more black magic in it.  Then they go back to the present.

Because of chaos theory or the butterfly effect or whatever there are some slight alterations to the present.  In Emma's case she realizes they're fairly substantial alterations.  One minute she's a grown woman and a superhero interrogating the men who might have killed her parents and the next she finds herself as a seventh grader with no magic armor at all.  But on the bright side her mother is alive!  (Her father is still dead.)

Since she's so young and powerless, the pair of witches she's befriended, Agnes and Sylvia, tell her to let them find Marie and make her change things back.  So Emma tries to live as normally as possible, which isn't all that easy.  She does make a couple of fumbling attempts to help find Marie but they don't go well.

Meanwhile Veronica is recovering thanks to some 21st Century medicine while the Watchmaker looks through the old book he stole.  He finally reveals to Marie that he is actually a demon (or really has a demon inside him) and with Marie's eye and the book he plans to open a gateway to allow a lot more demons into the world so they can take over.  Marie doesn't really want to help with that but it's either she helps or Veronica dies.

When Sylvia closes in on them, the Watchmaker decides to call out a bunch of other demon buddies, who start terrorizing the city.  One of those demons terrorizes a field trip Emma is on.  Using some cunning and ingenuity she drives off the demon and saves her class, which helps her to realize that she's not as powerless as she and the witches thought.

So with some help from Becky, Emma retrieves the magic armor.  Just in time, as the Watchmaker is finally ready to open the gateway with Marie's help.  Emma teams up with Sylvia to fight their way past a demon army in order to get to Marie and stop her.  Eventually Emma convinces Marie to turn on the Watchmaker and get rid of him and the gateway.  Then she puts time back the way it was (not by turning the Earth backwards because that's just fucking stupid) so Emma gets to be a big girl again and has to make a big girl decision about what to do with the people who may or may not have killed her parents.

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Anyway, does that sound exciting enough?  There is a lull I suppose in the middle, but I think it has a bigger payoff at the end than previous versions.  What do you think?

Tomorrow features the most exciting Two-Fer Tuesday yet!

9 comments:

  1. Sequels are so hard. So hard. I think it's a real trick to find a storyline that will carry the momentum of the first novel through a second. Good luck! I'm sure you'll figure it all out.

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  2. Replies
    1. Wait a minute...I got this same comment on one of my blogs!

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    2. Me, too. And I saw it on at least one other.

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  3. Great twists Pat. Especially the "Butterfly effect."

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  4. I like it. Plus you got rid of the thing which I think divided your story. In the rough draft that I read, you had two things. 1) A romance (watchmaker and the beautiful thing he's doing for his wife) and 2) Action/adventure. And I really don't think those two were working. This seems to be more of action/adventure putting Emma back into the spotlight in the role of having to fix everything instead of all those chapters devoted to the watchmaker taking his wife to dinner. And yes there were A LOT of those chapters. Hotel rooms, dinners, romance romance romance. I wanted the Scarlet Knight to start lopping limbs off!

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  5. Hi PT,
    I can see your dilemma, my human friend. However, just perusing through it seems that, based on your most imaginative human mind, that your sequel, with the fine tuning, is something to watch out for.
    Keep going and I admire your determination.
    Pawsitive wishes, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star!

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  6. I...would personally try to make the story actually feature your main character, rather than her be a byproduct of the action. Unless you make the story more about the Watchmaker, which was one of your original ideas. I liked that one way more, conceptually. Now you've just got a lot of generic things going on. Maybe it doesn't help that I haven't read any of the Scarlet Knight stories, but just on the premise alone...shouldn't the Watchmaker at least be involved in a previous Scarlet Knight's business? Wouldn't that make everything more relevant? As in, even with Marie interfering and/or basically running the plot, if the Watchmaker tricks her into saving someone who was supposed to be a crucial element of the Scarlet Knight legacy, either as a hero or villain (and thus the reason Emma's mother is still alive), because Emma is the only one who can defeat Watchmaker for somesuch reason.

    Anyway, my two cents.

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